BODMER, Karl (1809-1893)
[Mouth of the Fox River (Indiana)
[Tab. 5] Paris, Coblenz and London: 1839-1842]. Hand-coloured aquatint engraving by Himely after Bodmer, issue with no imprint line and with no English title, blindstamp. Sheet size: 17 3/4 x 24 9/16 inches. Plate mark: 16 1/4 x 21 1/4 inches.
A highly evocative view of the confluence of the Fox and Wabash Rivers: the almost pre-Columbian scene is shown at sunset, the final red light of the sun adding an ochre wash to the entire scene. Cattle drink from their watering-place on the opposite bank, a flock of Carolina Parrakeets settles down noisily at the roost for the night, beneath a Bald Eagle perches watchfully: all this is allied with the untamed nature of the landscape and gives us a view of America as it was before the arrival of the white man. Prince Maximilian's health had suffered on the journey out to New Harmony, and during November and December 1832, whilst he recovered, Bodmer and Dreidoppel made many excursions along the rivers in search of zoological specimens. On 6 December 1832 Maximilian was sufficiently recovered to accompany them and as he recorded in his journal `Mr. Bodmer made a drawing from an interesting landscape, the estuary of the Fox River into the Wabash', he goes on, the water was `clear and dark green' and the surrounding forest of `colossal Plantanus trees were shining white in the densely tangled thicket'.
Karl Bodmer's images show great versatility and technical virtuosity and give us a uniquely accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians. In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian's servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. They arrived in Boston in July 1832, traveled on to Philadelphia, where they stayed with Napoleon Bonaparte's elder brother Joseph. From here they headed west across Pennsylvania across the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh and the Ohio country, visiting all the important German settlements en route. Their most important stop on their route west was at the utopian colony of New Harmony in Indiana. The Prince spent five months there in the company of some of the country's leading scientific men, and studying all the relevant literature on backcountry America. On 24 March 1833 the party reached St. Louis, Missouri, and the start of the journey into Indian country.
Graff 4648; Howes M443a; Pilling 2521; Sabin 47014; Wagner-Camp 76:1.